Monday Evening Book Club June Selection

Sofie and CeciliaThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, June 10 in the 2nd floor Training Room to discuss the novel Sofie & Cecilia by Katherine Ashenburg.

About the book

In Sofie & Cecilia, beloved non-fiction author and journalist Katherine Ashenburg draws upon her formidable skill and maturity as a writer to craft an extraordinary and splendid debut novel. This is the story of a lifelong female friendship, set in the fascinating art world of Sweden between 1900 and 1940, just as modern art and the beginnings of the Scandinavian mid-century modern design movement were inspiring a creative revolution across northern Europe. Loosely based on the lives of celebrated artists Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn (“Nils Olsson” and “Lars Vogt” in the novel), Ashenburg transports us behind both the public and domestic scenes–and canvasses–of these larger-than-life men to reveal the lesser-known but equally astounding and rich stories of the women who married them: restlessly creative artist-in-her-own-right Sofie Olsson, and fiercely private and intelligent curator Cecilia Vogt.
Here is a gorgeous gem of a book: surprising, unique, layered with insight into the nuances of female friendship as it stretches, changes, and deepens in unexpected ways over a lifetime. Woven effortlessly through this tapestry, like a beautiful motif, is absorbing detail about Scandinavian painting, design, and textile work; European history and sexual politics; the country life, city salons, vibrant art, and folklore of Sweden; and the secrets and challenges of bright, talented women juggling marriage, career, individual aspirations, and family life inside an artist’s household in the early twentieth century. (amazon.ca)

About the author

Author website

A CBC radio Next Chapter interview

A Global News interview

A CBC Books interview

Book review in Quill & Quire

Book review by literarytreats.com

Author essay on writing her first novel in her 70’s

Karin Larsson artist biography

Carl Larsson artist biography

Emma Zorn biography

Anders Zorn artist biography

 

Monday Evening Book Club May Selection

The Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, May 6 in the 2nd floor Aquarium to discuss the novel Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.

Washington BlackAbout the book

From the author of the award-winning international best seller Half-Blood Blues comes a dazzling new novel, about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.

George Washington Black, or “Wash,” an eleven-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is terrified to be chosen by his master’s brother as his manservant.

To his surprise, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist.

Soon Wash is initiated into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky, where even a boy born in chains may embrace a life of dignity and meaning—and where two people, separated by an impossible divide, can begin to see each other as human.

But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Christopher and Wash must abandon everything. What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic.

What brings Christopher and Wash together will tear them apart, propelling Wash even further across the globe in search of his true self.

From the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black tells a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again, and asks the question, What is true freedom? (From the publisher.)

About the author

Esi Edugyan is a Canadian novelist, born and raised in Calgary, to Ghanaian immigrant parents. She studied creative writing at the University of Victoria and Johns Hopkins University before publishing her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, in 2004.

Despite favourable reviews for her first novel, Edugyan had difficulty securing a publisher for her second fiction manuscript. She spent some time as a writer-in-residence in Stuttgart, Germany, which inspired her to write another novel, Half-Blood Blues, about a mixed-race jazz musician in World War II-era Europe who is abducted by the Nazis as a “Rhineland Bastard.”

Published in 2011, Half-Blood Blues was shortlisted for that year’s Man Booker Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and Governor General’s Award for English language fiction. She was one of two Canadian writers, alongside Patrick deWitt, to make all four award lists in 2011. On November 8, 2011 she won the Giller Prize. Again, alongside deWitt, Half-Blood Blues was also shortlisted for the 2012 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. In April 2012, Half-Blood Blues also won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.

In 2018, Edugyan released Washington Black, which was long-listed for that year’s Man Booker Prize. It won the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Edugyan is the first author to win the Giller Prize for back-to-back novels.

Edugyan lives in Victoria, British Columbia, and is married to novelist and poet Steven Price. (From Wikipedia.)

Q & A with Esi Edugyan about Washington Black

The Tichborne case: Esi Edugyan’s original inspiration for the novel

On Barbados, the First Black Slave Society 

Washington Black review (Washington Post)

Washington Black review (Irish Times)

Washington Black review (New Yorker)

Esi Edugyan is the winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Monday Evening Book Club April Selection

EducatedThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, April 8 in the 2nd floor Training Room to discuss the memoir Educated by Tara Westover.

About the book…

Tara Westover was seventeen when she first set foot in a classroom. Instead of traditional lessons, she grew up learning how to stew herbs into medicine, scavenging in the family scrap yard and helping her family prepare for the apocalypse. She had no birth certificate and no medical records and had never been enrolled in school.

Westover’s mother proved a marvel at concocting folk remedies for many ailments. As Tara developed her own coping mechanisms, little by little, she started to realize that what her family was offering didn’t have to be her only education. Her first day of university was her first day in school—ever—and she would eventually win an esteemed fellowship from Cambridge and graduate with a PhD in intellectual history and political thought.

Author website

Discussion Questions

Video Interviews

CBC’s The Current interview (audio)

A Book Review by Bill Gates

A New York Times Book Review

A Guardian Book Review

Ruby Ridge siege (an event that radicalized Tara’s father)

Monday Evening Book Club March Selection

All things consoled

The Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, March 11 in the 2nd floor Training Room to discuss the memoir All Things Consoled: A Daughter’s Memoir by Elizabeth Hay.

About the book…

Jean and Gordon Hay were a colourful, formidable pair. Jean, a late-blooming artist with a marvellous sense of humour, was superlatively frugal; nothing got wasted, not even maggoty soup. Gordon was a proud and ambitious schoolteacher with a terrifying temper, a deep streak of melancholy, and a devotion to flowers, cars, words, and his wife. As old age collides with the tragedy of living too long, these once ferociously independent parents become increasingly dependent on Lizzie, the so-called difficult child. By looking after them in their final decline, she hopes to prove that she can be a good daughter after all.
In this courageous memoir, written with tough-minded candour, tenderness, and wit, Elizabeth Hay lays bare the exquisite agony of a family’s dynamics–entrenched favouritism, sibling rivalries, grievances that last for decades, genuine admiration, and enduring love. In the end, she reaches a more complete understanding of the most
unforgettable characters she will ever know, the vivid giants in her life who were her parents.

About Elizabeth Hay (by the author)

An interview with Elizabeth Hay: The guilt and anguish of looking after elderly parents (Macleans)

Elizabeth Hay on back-seat inspiration and Jane Austen’s ghost (CBC)

Review in Quill and Quire

Review: Elizabeth Hay presents a powerful memoir of her parents final years (Artsfile)

Review: Elizabeth Hay brings family drama to life

Elizabeth Hay talks to Shelagh Rogers about All Things Consoled (CBC)

Fiction about complicated families to help you navigate holiday dysfunction (CBC)

 

Monday Evening Book Club February Selection

Born a crimeThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, February 11 in the 2nd floor Training Room to discuss the memoir Born a Crime : stories from a South African childhood by Trevor Noah.

About the book…

One of the comedy world’s fastest-rising stars tells his wild coming of age story during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Noah provides something deeper than traditional memoirists: powerfully funny observations about how farcical political and social systems play out in our lives. Trevor Noah is the host of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, where he gleefully provides America with its nightly dose of serrated satire. He is a light-footed but cutting observer of the relentless absurdities of politics, nationalism and race–and in particular the craziness of his own young life, which he’s lived at the intersections of culture and history. In his first book, Noah tells his coming of age story with his larger-than-life mother during the last gasps of apartheid-era South Africa and the turbulent years that followed. Noah was born illegal–the son of a white, Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother, who had to pretend to be his nanny or his father’s servant in the brief moments when the family came together. His brilliantly eccentric mother loomed over his life–a comically zealous Christian (they went to church six days a week and three times on Sunday), a savvy hustler who kept food on their table during rough times, and an aggressively involved, if often seriously misguided, parent who set Noah on his bumpy path to stardom. The stories Noah tells are sometimes dark, occasionally bizarre, frequently tender, and always hilarious–whether he’s subsisting on caterpillars during months of extreme poverty or making comically pitiful attempts at teenage romance in a color-obsessed world; whether’s he’s being thrown into jail as the hapless fall guy for a crime he didn’t commit or being thrown by his mother from a speeding car driven by murderous gangsters.

Trevor Noah’s website

NPR interview highlights

Interviews on Youtube

A “Guardian Live” interview

“The View” interview

Discussion questions

A Huffington Post book review

A Guardian review

Map of South Africa

History of Apartheid